The Past > Leaders of the Revolution

Leadership through the years of conflic

The leaders of the Pathet Lao made up a 7-person Politburo which guided the liberation struggle from the caves in Viengxay from 1964 to 1975. When the Lao People's Democratic Republic was declared in 1975 they continued to lead the new nation from the capital, Vientiane.

Kaysone Phomvihane

Kaysone Phomvihane was born in Savannakhet, southern Laos, in 1920. He spent much of his youth in Vietnam, where he was influenced by the struggle for independence and became a leading figure in the Indochinese Communist Party. When the first Lao communist military unit was established in 1949, Kaysone became its commander.

Kaysone became the leader of the Lao People's Party (later the Lao People's Revolutionary Party) at its first congress in 1955. As General Secretary of the Party, Kaysone directed the Lao liberation struggle over many years from clandestine sites across Houaphanh province. He established the Pathet Lao headquarters in Viengxay, working from here until victory in 1975.

Kaysone Phomvihane was the first Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, from 1975 to 1991. He then served as President of the Lao PDR until his death in 1992. Kaysone Phomvihane's portrait is on the Lao banknotes.

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Nouhak Phoumsavan

Nouhak Phoumsavan was born in 1914 into a peasant family in Savannakhet, southern Laos.

He became involved with the Indochinese communist and nationalist movements from an early age and built strong ties with the Vietnamese communist movement. In 1946 he became Chairman of the Committee for Lao Resistance in the East, a national liberation organisation with strong connections to the Viet Minh. At the Geneva conference in February 1954, which marked the end of the French war in Indochina, Nouhak Phoumsavan represented the Pathet Lao as a member of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam delegation.

When the Government for the Liberated Zone was established in Viengxay, Nouhak Phoumsavan held the key role of economics and finance minister.

From 1975 he was a leading figure in the government of the Lao PDR, serving as President from 1992 to 1998. Until his death in 2008 he enjoyed regular visits to Viengxay, staying in his house outside his cave.

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Prince Souphannouvong

Sometimes referred to in the international media as the 'Red Prince', Prince Souphannouvong was one of the key figures in the communist revolutionary movement in Laos. Souphannouvong was a very successful diplomat for the Lao communist cause. An articulate and charming man, he fostered support for the Lao movement in neighbouring countries and with other communist organisations around the world.

Born into the Lao royal family in Luang Prabang in 1909, from an early age it was clear that Prince Souphannouvong was not interested in a traditional aristocratic life.

As an engineer in Vietnam from the late 1930s Prince Souphannouvong witnessed the many changes in the country during World War Two and the growing strength of the communist movement. He developed a good relationship with the leaders of the Viet Minh, including Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh, and over the years of the Pathet Lao campaign for Lao independence a close relationship was maintained between the two movements.

Prince Souphannouvong returned to Laos in 1945 to join the Lao Issara forces, and pursued political and military means to achieve success for the socialist movement though a series of political associations and coalition governments. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was a key figure in three coalition governments in Vientiane.

During the turbulent early 1960s, with growing US political and military involvement in the country, it became clear that political means were not going to bring about the change the Pathet Lao desired. Based in Viengxay from 1964, Prince Souphannouvong was President of the Lao Patriotic Front (Neo Lao Hak Sat).

When the Lao PDR was established, Prince Souphannouvong became the country's first President, remaining in post until he died in 1995.

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Khamtay Siphandone

Khamtay Siphandone was born on Done Khong island in Siphandone, the "Four Thousand Islands" in the southern Lao Mekong delta.

During the years in Viengxay he was Politburo member with responsibility for the military and defence, and as the Supreme Army Commander he was based in the huge Xanglot cave.

After 1975, Khamtay Siphandone was Minister of Defence and Army Commander, and he became General Secretary of the Communist Party on the death of Kaysone Phomvihane.  He held the post of Prime Minister from 1991 to 1998 and served as President of the Lao PDR from 1998 to 2006.

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Phoumi Vongvichid

Phoumi Vongvichid was a historian, writer and a leading Lao poet of the 'modern' era. In Viengxay in 1967 he published the influential Lao Grammar, which has shaped the development and use of the Lao language.

Phoumi Vongvichid, born in 1909 in Xieng Khouang, was governor of Houphanh province in 1945. After the French returned, Phoumi was active in the Lao Issara based in northern Thailand. In 1949 the Lao Issara government-in-exile was dissolved, and Phoumi joined Souphannouvong in northern Vietnam.

He led the Pathet Lao delegation to the Geneva Conference on the neutrality of Laos in 1962, and was Minister of Information in the Second Coalition government. In 1964, after a series of political assassinations, Phoumi left Vientiane with other Pathet Lao ministers.

For the next ten years, Phoumi lived and worked in Viengxay, and led Pathet Lao delegations to international communist gatherings. He was Politburo member for Education and Public Health. He took a leading role in negotiations to form the Third Coalition government in 1974.

After formation of the Lao PDR, Phoumi was Minister of Education, Sport and Religious Affairs and Chairman of the Lao Front for National Construction. He served as Acting President for Souphannouvong from 1986 to 1991, when the President’s health was failing. Phoumi Vongvichid died in 1994.

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Phoun Sipaseuth

Phoun Sipaseuth came from Savannakhet province. As a Pathet Lao member of the National Assembly in 1959, he was imprisoned with Souphannouvong and others when the coalition government fell apart. By 1962 he was a General and chief of the political department of the Neo Lao Hak Sat.

Phoun Sipaseuth was responsible for Foreign Affairs within the Politburo in Viengxay. One of his most important tasks was to maintain support for the Lao struggle from other communist countries. 

After 1975, Phoun Sipaseuth became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. He died in December 1994.

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Sisomphon Lovansai

Sisomphon Lovansai was the Politburo member responsible for Central Committee organization. He worked from 2 caves - one located in the rocky outcrop opposite this building, and another a few kilometres east of Viengxay on Route 6.

Sisomphon Lovansai died in 1993, aged 77.

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Laos - Simply Beautiful LNTA

Why did Laos and Viengxay become a battleground?

Historical background to the conflict and bombing

How did people in Viengxay live through nine years of bombing?

The story of Viengxay 1964 to 1973
"Voices of Viengxay" - memories of people who lived there
Leaders of the revolution

What happened in Viengxay after the ceasefire was signed

Viengxay from 1973 to 1975

Voices of Viengxay

Ms. Y Kunlavong
Ms. Y Kunlavong, who walked from Vientiane for a year with her family to reach Viengxay

"Mr Kaysone used to say that the blood relationship of people in the revolution was stronger than the relationship between brothers who shared the same blood. Every group should be a revolutionary family and the whole nation is a family in the revolution."

Four of the seven Central Committee members in Viengxay around 1968 (left to right): Mr Nouhak Phoumsavan, Mr Khamtay Siphandone, Prince Souphannouvong, Mr Kaysone Phomvihane.

Escape from Prison

In 1959 the first coalition government, in which several Neo Lao Hak Xat representatives were serving, fell. Prince Souphannouvong and several colleagues including Nouhak Phoumsavan, Phoumi Vongvichid, Phoun Sipaseuth and General Singkapo Sikhotchounlamany were arrested in Vientiane by their former coalition government partners and held in Phonekheng prison, north of Vientiane. Prince Souphannouvong and his colleagues talked the guards into releasing them in May 1960, and the guards even walked back with them on the tough 500 km march to the then Neo Lao Hak Xat base area in Xieng Khouang.